The Boston Celtics earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and came three wins from the NBA Finals last season, but just four players remain from that roster.
That’s where the C’s are after they acquired superstar point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday in exchange for All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round draft pick.
How does this four-player trade shake up Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ starting lineup and bench?
Here’s a roster reset.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Gordon Hayward
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Irving takes over for Thomas as the starting point guard and gives Boston one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players. He can shoot from 3-point range, finish at the rim and dominate in pick-and-roll sets. Irving is one of the toughest players to defend in the league with his ability to create offense in so many ways. His playmaking is underrated, too, as evidenced by his 8.3 assists per 100 possessions last season.
Hayward could start at small forward, but shooting guard makes a lot of sense because it would allow Stevens to give Brown more minutes to help his development. Hayward is an All-Star who’s increased his scoring average in each of the last six seasons. He’s never played with a star as talented as Irving.
Brown has the potential to be an elite perimeter defender and showed good improvement with his 3-point shot last season. After a solid rookie campaign and another strong summer league, it’s time to increase his role. Brown is the most athletic player on the team and could form a devastating fast break duo with Irving — just think of the alley-oop possibilities.
Horford stretches the floor, passes well and gives the C’s a low-post scoring option. His defense and teamwork also are exceptional. He does a bit of everything for the Celtics, and his job should be even easier with two major stars in Irving and Hayward in the fold.
Baynes, at 6-foot-10, gives the Celtics much-needed toughness and rebounding. He might not finish games, especially if Boston goes to a small-ball lineup, but he’s a good bet to start.
Marcus Smart, PG/SG
Jayson Tatum, SG/SF
Marcus Morris, PF
Terry Rozier, PG
Shane Larkin, PG
Guerschon Yabusele, SF/PF
Abdel Nader, SF
Semi Ojeleye, PF
Daniel Theis, PF
Smart could start at shooting guard if Stevens elects to play Brown in a sixth man role, but Smart’s energy and excellent defense could prove quite valuable off the bench. Tatum showed flashes of his impressive scoring ability during the NBA’s Summer League, and he’ll likely be called on when the C’s are struggling and need instant offense from the bench.
Rozier and Larkin will compete for backup point guard minutes. Rozier has tremendous athleticism and rebounds well for a point guard, but he needs to be a more consistent shooter to be an effective role player.
Morris, like Baynes, will need to give Boston a physical edge and rebound well. The Celtics were a poor rebounding team last season and gave up a center in Zizic as part of the Irving trade. The C’s would be smart to add another free-agent center, but if they don’t, Morris could play a valuable role in the frontcourt. Yabusele could provide some rebounding, too, but he’s more of a stretch-4.
Nader and Ojeleye give the Celtics two more options on the wing. Both impressed in summer league but unlikely will make much of an impact in 2017-18. There aren’t enough minutes to go around.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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